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The Migrant Crisis


                               The Migrant Crisis               Gerry OShea

 The current snafu surrounding the refugee crisis in Great Britain started when Boris Johnson was prime minister and facing increasingly harsh criticism because of the number of illegal migrants arriving. He came up with a bizarre solution: place these unwelcome arrivals in a chartered aircraft that would transport them to Rwanda, a landlocked east-African country that is mainly remembered because of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi tribe there thirty years ago.

This plan, which remains the policy of the conservative Government in Westminster, means that these refugees would have their claims processed in Rwanda and be expected to settle there. Courts in the UK and Europe have expressed doubts about the legality of this curious policy, and there are currently serious objections to it in the House of Lords in London.

In 2023, close to 30,000 refugees came to Great Britain in boats crossing the English Channel, a figure that, surprisingly, is 36% fewer than the numbers that arrived in 2022. British officials dealing with this anomaly view 2023 as a kind of pet year and expect the numbers to swell again in 2024.

Liam Allmark, a spokesman for the Jesuit Refugee Services in the United Kingdom, and many other progressive voices reject this policy of forcibly transferring people seeking sanctuary in Britain. It violates basic tenets of human dignity and dehumanizes the poor people who are driven from their homes by war, poverty, or persecution.

The refugee crisis has engulfed most Western European countries. Germany has accepted far more new immigrants than other countries and they are housing more than a million Ukrainian citizens. However, the high number of newcomers arriving there has created major and increasing political problems for the government in Berlin.

A recent report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in Ireland has shown that Irish positivity towards immigration has significantly increased. Despite dips in acceptance during periods of recession, the results show that people believe that immigrants make the country a better place to live, that the new arrivals enrich the country’s cultural life, and that immigration is good for the economy.

However, recent polls reveal an increase in negativity towards new immigrants from 3 percent in July 2022 to 14 percent a year later. By comparison, housing is rated the country’s most immediate crisis by 56 percent.

The ESRI report found that Irish people are more comfortable with European migrants, including from Ukraine, in their communities than people from other countries. The approval percentage for the latter group registered at 85 percent while the non-Europeans came in at 73 percent.

Another study confirms these numbers with 87 percent speaking highly of Ukrainians dropping somewhat for asylum seekers to 76 percent. These numbers rank Ireland close to the top in extending the hand of welcome to refugees, irrespective of their country of origin.

Moves to accommodate immigrants in a town’s only available hotel have led to angry backlashes, including at the D Hotel in Drogheda and the Racket Hall hotel in Roscrea. Residents point out that cutting off such hotel space damages local businesses and greatly reduces the availability of a needed amenity for events and meetings.

The government is changing its focus from near-total reliance on private providers to State-owned accommodation alongside commercial providers, which will have to meet higher standards. They will expand their program of constructing new multiple dwellings with more emphasis on modular units as well as the conversion of unused offices.

The Minister for Integration, Roderic O’Gorman, states that the new system will take a few years to work, and in the interim, they will still rely on the private sector, including hotels, for accommodation.

A new border procedure will be introduced to speed up processing for those unlikely to be granted asylum and an expanded checking of those who will be fingerprinted for matching against a centralized European database.

The Government has paid out over 15 million euros to failed asylum seekers and others in the country illegally. The purpose of these payments is to save the Department of Justice and gardai from deporting them, a costly and often a legally complex process.

Under this voluntary return scheme, which has elicited praise in other European capitals, each person who is leaving voluntarily is entitled to a standard grant of 1200 euros or 2000 per family.

Recipients of these disbursements intended to cover the costs of travel and to act as a financial fillip to help them re-integrate into their home country.

Prospective applicants are advised that the scheme is preferable to deportation because it includes financial support and does not preclude the person from applying again for asylum status. In contrast, if they are deported, they are automatically banned not only from Ireland but from every EU country.

Brazilian immigrants are by far the most likely to avail of the scheme, with 841 applying in the last decade and 707 being accepted for the scheme. Other nationalities who applied for grants included Georgians (164), South Africans (182) and Mauritians (127). There were applicants also from richer countries: the United States (83) and Israel (31).

There have never been more people on the move than in our time. A few years ago the United Nations estimated the number of refugees at an astonishing 70 million. Yet close to 85% of these migrants end up not in Europe or North America but in developing Third-World countries.

Pope Francis is the greatest advocate on the world stage for refugees, confronting many conservative Catholics who have mindlessly lapsed into applauding the vibrant right-wing forces that dehumanize the migrants and press for strategies for keeping them out. They even convince themselves that their exclusionary policies are supported by Christian moral reasoning.

Francis has made it his job to call out the shameful lack of collective purpose, the consequences of which are visible in border camps where hundreds of thousands languish in degradation.

Flying refugees to Rwanda certainly doesn’t help.

Gerry OShea blogs at





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